Have you ever noticed that some folks tend to identify themselves by what they are *against*, instead of what they are for? I do it. You probably do it. People you know probably do it. Christians often (in my experience) get accused of this every time we speak out against sin. We'll be referred to as "anti-[insert some pet sin masked as a right or a good here]" when the reality is that we are actually "pro-[insert the virtue which contradicts the corresponding sin here]". A classic example: "anti-choice [to abort an unborn child]" is actually a fallacious name given to Christians who are pro-life. "Anti-contraception" would likewise correspond to a Christian being pro-natural law.
Now, when a Christian is contending for the faith in a secular world, our arguments are often going to appear to be defined by what we are *against*. However, a good litmus test can reveal that we are actually arguing *for* something, and working to discover the truth. That litmus test is objectivity, or an openness to observing objective facts. We take the good with the bad, evaluate the whole lot honestly, flesh out the facts, and try to arrive at objective truth. Something else to consider is that defining yourself as *against* something isn't inherently bad, in and of itself. There's nothing wrong with being "anti-sin", so long as you ground that in the reality that we are anti-sin based on our being pro-God and our being made in His image.
Where we can run into fallacious reasoning is where we define ourselves by what we are against, and then measure everything else by that same ruler. We end up making false correlations. And here I am talking specifically about anti-Catholics. I once read a forum thread where a person asked [paraphrasing], "At what point does a non-Catholic become anti-Catholic?" The answer was [again paraphrasing], "...at the point where they no longer simply disagree with Catholic doctrine, no longer seek to understand our differences and explore the facts, and instead make a choice to be against anything that smells of Catholicism regardless of all else". This attitude leads to statements such as:
-Catholics use incense, so incense is bad [or pagan, or ritualistic, or whatever].
-Catholics confess their sins to a Priest, so confessing sins is bad and un-Biblical.
-The Pope called for unity of all Christians, so unity is bad.
-Joe Schmoe Evangelical watched a 30-minute Catholic prayer service...so he's now a Catholic...which is bad.
Never mind any objective facts. Never mind that God prophesied that, in our worship of Him, His people would use incense (Mal 1:11). Never mind that God's Word tells us explicitly to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). Never mind that Christ Himself prayed for unity among His flock (Jn 17:20-23). Never mind that Joe Schmoe Evangelical can enjoy praying the Psalms and meditating on God's Word and can recognize the beauty and reverence in a service that he might otherwise disagree with and with which he admits he doesn't really understand. No, if it bears any hint of "Catholic", then it's bad. Woe unto the fellow who falls in to this thinking and later has to give a historically sound and credible explanation of how the Canon of New Testament Scripture was first defined in the 4th century.
I ran across just such a line of thinking the other day when a friend of mine posted a link to a recent newsletter from Mike Gendron. As I read through it, thinking of all the things I'd like to refute (despite the repetition it would be), this portion stuck out to me like a sore thumb. It's titled, "Is Rick Warren a Closet Catholic?"
Rick Warren, for those who, like myself, are not familiar with him, is an evangelical pastor at a California mega-church called Saddleback. Aside from watching the video that Gendron suggested we all watch (linked below), that's about all I know of him. Gendron's comments in this part of the newsletter seem to start off on the premise that the Catholic Church is bad, and anything remotely Catholic is also bad, and anyone who likes anything remotely Catholic must be Catholic, and therefore bad. That's the only conclusion that makes sense to me because, just by the plain words Gendron writes in his review, the only other conclusion is that he is actually acclaiming and promoting the Catholic view. And given the remainder of the newsletter, I don't think that's the case.
Mike begins with the question:
"Is Rick Warren a Closet Catholic?"
Maybe, but by the little I know about him I highly doubt it. Maybe he is beginning to see the beauty in Christ's Church and will convert someday. Or maybe he is just respectful of Catholics and looks at the Catholic Faith objectively instead of through a tainted lens. Maybe he is willing to take all the facts and weigh them objectively instead of jumping into fallacious reasoning. Maybe he is able to see the good in things that he might otherwise not like...kinda like how we can see the good that came about from Christ's suffering for our sins. Maybe he is willing to recognize that Catholics believe in Christ, just like he does, and he sees some good in that.
"The Eternal Word Television Network, a Catholic station, conducted an interview with Rick Warren that reveals how much he embraces the Roman Catholic religion and his push for ecumenical unity."
Great! He's off to a good start because Christ and the Apostles and the Christians of the subsequent centuries ALSO pushed for unity (Jn 10:16, Eph 4:3-6, Jn 17:17-23, 1Cor 1:10, and a host of others, Cyprian, Tertullian, Hillary, up through today).
"During the interview, Warren praises all the Catholic mystics and the Pope over and over again. At the 24:20 mark, Warren says "he watches EWTN more than any Christian channel." He said if you don't understand the roots of your faith you're like a tumbleweed."
And I would have to agree with him, and I would think Mike would agree with this as well. If you don't understand the roots of your faith, you are liable to be tossed about anywhere and everywhere...kinda like a ship tossed on the ocean or a house built on sand rather than on a firm foundation, right Mike? And what's wrong with praising the efforts of the Pope and other historical Catholics who have served God's children? [By the way, who are these "mystics" Mike is talking about? And what would be wrong with praising their service to God?] Is it wrong to find the good work that God can accomplish, even in sinners, and recognize that?
"One of his favorite shows on EWTN is "Chaplet of the Divine Mercy." After a stressful day, he comes home and watches it with his wife Kay. He said "I sit back, relax and worship." He said one episode was a Catholic prayer service in front of the Monstrance."
Again, this sounds wonderful. Here is a man who wants to worship God through prayer, asking God repeatedly to have mercy on him, and on the whole world. Sounds like he is repeating the beautiful Scripture passages of Psalm 51, Mt 15:22, Mk 10:47-48, Lk 16:24, 18:13, 38-39. And all the better while looking upon a monstrance which contains the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Savior, at least according to Christ (Mt 26:26, Mk 14:22, Lk 22:19, 1Cor 11:24).
"About the 25:30 mark, the interviewer says he was struck by three images in Warren's office - Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Billy Graham. Warren said the only one missing was Pope John Paul "because those four people were the greatest influences on the 20th century" and he has tried to learn lessons from each of them."
Again, this is great that a man can recognize God's Work through His people and try to emulate their living according to God's Will and learn how to love through the Christian witness of those people. That's really neat.
"Watch the interview HERE. "
You bet I did, and I hope you will, too!!
Photo: Egyptian Fayoumis named "Chuck"...the best Roo I've ever had